Bicentennial

This is my 200th post. If you’re expecting something dramatic and/or insightful. I’m afraid you might be a little disappointed. On the other hand, if you’re expecting a few of my favourite photographs from the last 12 years, then you may be happy.

Climbing on Skye

Climbing on Skye

A great week on Skye with a mate (in the picture) during a snowy but sunny period. 2001. Here we’re walking up near McLeod’s Table in Trotternish.

Icicle

Icicle

On the same trip, heading through the forest to the Old Man of Storr, I stopped to snap this. I was using an Olympus CZ3030 at the time and still carried a 35mm SLR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees in the mist

Caledonian Canal, Corpach

Glen Garry

Glen Garry

Sgurr nan Ciste

Sgurr nan Ciche

Three more images taken on various trips to Scotland. I climbed Sgurr nan Ciche in 2007.

Everest, Nuptse and lhotse

Everest from Kala Patthar

Saddhu

Saddhu

Olympic flame

Olympic flame

Sensual tree

Sensual tree

Nant Ffrancon

Nant Ffrancon

Rose

Rose

Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

Craig y Fan ddu

Craig y Fan Ddu

Hercules over Pen y Fan

Hercules over Pen y Fan

And finally, some pictures of Rufus as a pup. As I type, he’s flat out in the front room having roasted by the fire for half an hour.

Rufus at 8 weeks

Rufus at 8 weeks

Rufus at 8 months

Rufus at 8 months

 

Don’t worry, normal service will be resumed for post 201.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Here we snow again

Sorry about the title.

I managed to get a last minute day off today (thanks boss). Rufus and I decided to make for Craig y Fan Ddu.I knew it would be white with frost and I knew it would probably be a challenge for the car and I to get to the car park. But what is life without challenges? Just before we set off, there was a beautiful pre-dawn glow in the sky and I took that to be a good omen, since the clear skies forecast hadn’t materialised properly.

We battled through the commuter traffic. Some how it didn’t seem so bad because we weren’t off to work and in no time we were flying up the A465 heading for Merthyr. Beyond the urban sprawl, the narrow lane leading up into the mountains was frosty, with large stretches covered in snow and ice. The car park was empty and the track leading to it covered in about 2 inches of snow. Great!

We set off on the steep path alongside the river, which tumbles and crashed down a series of waterfalls on my left. After 5 minutes, I realised I’d left Rufus’ snacks behind. Fearing that he’d eat parts of me as punishment, I went back down to get them. About half way up the path, we encountered the first of many sheep. As they wear camouflage at this time of year, they surprised both of us. Rufus was staring in disbelief at a sheep only a few yards away. Ever well behaved (!) he came back to me and we negotiated the ovines until we got to the steepest part of the climb. With my head down, I just got on with it and 10 minutes later, I was panting whilst looking out over a snow covered landscape to the south.

Rufus, of course, was unaffected by the climb and just wanted to get on with the rest of the walk.

We set off north along the ridge towards Graig Fan Las and Craig Cwarelli. The sun was out but not strong as there was a partial covering of thin cloud. A light wind served to chill the air but it wasn’t uncomfortable. For the first half of the route, there was a lot of ice on the path, making walking next to the sheer drop quite a challenge. Rufus’ four paw drive worked but even he was losing grip; probably because he was running everywhere. He was careful not to go near the edge, though.

Then we passed over a stream, an adventure in itself as most of the rocks in the path were covered in thick ice and the stream dropped over the edge of the ridge and down…down…down…

Beyond the stream, things changed. The path was covered in snow, which in places came up over me gaiters (I said gaiters, not garters. It didn’t reach as far as them). That’s knee height. Rufus learnt how to spot and avoid deep snow last time we were up here, so he was okay. I looked for the shortest route and found the going quite hard. We dropped down into the head of the Cerrig Edmwnt valley and the wind picked up. I had to stop to fix my gart… er gaiters and almost immediately I felt my fingers start to sting in the bitter wind. Neither of us waited long and we took off westwards. In the distance, Pen y Fan and Corn Du shone with white snow in the sunshine.

By now, the snow was taking it’s toll on Rufus. Snow balls between his toes where he has long hair and it’s uncomfortable for him to walk. I can usually tell and sure enough, he slowed and then started manicuring himself. I helped him clear the snowballs away and decided to turn around. We had to stop a few more times for snowball clearing, but he was okay. On the way back, I was facing the sun and it was lovely to walk in the sunshine even if there wasn’t a lot of heat coming from it. We met two walkers coming up, and I stopped to talk to them for a while. When I looked down, Rufus was lying flat on the path cleaning his paws again.

Before long we were at the drop to the car park. Despite being down hill, it was no less of a challenge as many of the stones and rocks underfoot had thin sheets of ice on them. But I managed to cope with that (Rufus just went for it and spent his time waiting for me by paddling in the river – which also cleared his paws of snow). At the car park, I put the backpack away, grabbed the camera and set off down into the woods. There’s a lovely set of waterfalls here and with the snow they were even more appealing. I threw stones for Rufus while snapping away at the river.

All too soon it was time to head home. Engaging super mega grip drive (ok, I selected the ice setting), we drove up the slippery track to the road. For a few miles, there was a lot of ice on the road where it had melted, flowed and refrozen as the sun dropped below the hills. Then the going got better and we were back on proper roads. Rufus was sleeping for most of the way back and flopped on the sofa when we got home.

See our route here. I wish I lived closer to the mountains.

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Chance of Snow

I checked my favourite long term weather forecasting site, booked the day off a week in advance and sat back to watch the rain coming in. Except it didn’t and on Friday morning, as Rufus and I arrived in the car park on the site of the old Torpantau railway station, it was the beginning of a glorious winter’s day. The temperature had hit -7.5c on the way here but the roads were clear and it was now only -3c. All around us, the hills of the Brecon Beacons were white with frost and snow.

At the foot of the path to Craig y Fan Ddu, the large waterfall was almost completely iced over and the river had a lid of ice that Rufus skated across. We didn’t stop long as the air was still cold and the best way to warm up was by getting moving again.

I always find the first part of the climb hard as the muscles warm up and get used to the work ahead. It was hard to spot the sheep against the white and poor Rufus was on the lead for a large part of the climb. It warmed up as the sun rose and we got higher, and my hat, gloves and fleece all came off on the way. We passed horses grazing on the upper slopes of the mountain and then suddenly we were through the sheep line and into the thick snow.

On the summit, the wind picked up a bit. We stopped to rest and I noticed that Rufus wasn’t wagging his tail. He was clearing enjoying though, as he barked for more snowballs to be thrown, drank and ate. Nevertheless, I kept an eye on him as we moved off just in case something was wrong.

I love walking along the ridge of Craig y Fan Ddu and Graig Fan Las – it’s airy and open and worth all the effort to get to. To my right is the steep drop to the Caerfanell river and the slopes of Waun Rydd opposite. Today, the views were magnificent all around and the sow gave everything a clean, crisp feel. The air was clear and I could see over to the Sugarloaf in the east and Bannau Brecheiniog in the west.

The temperature dropped as a breeze started blowing from the south, and I checked on the thermometer to see that it was down to -4.5c. But I was warm in four layers of clothes, and Rufus had his very efficient fur coat on.There was still no tail wagging, but he was moving well and there was no sign of discomfort.

Over to the west, I heard a plane flying low and an RAF Hercules popped into view, flying over the Neuadd reservoirs before climbing slightly and banking sharply over Pen y Fan. Then it was gone and the only sound was the faint booming of artillery on the ranges at Eppynt.

On Craig Cwarelli, the snow had drifted over the path and we had to take a different route over the grass away from the edge. Several times my feet broke through the frozen snow surface and I found myself in snow that spilled over my gaiters. Rufus was more fortunate with his weight spread over four paws. Even so, he fell through a couple of times and I had to pull him out of a drift at one point.

Ahead Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Fan y Big lined up. In the past I’ve done the full Beacons horseshoe but it wasn’t to be today. The day wasn’t long enough and I didn’t want to be out after dark, when the temperature would drop dramatically. But both Rufus and I were getting tired so it wasn’t an option anyway.

We dropped down onto the Gap road – the old pre-Roman track leaning through that part of the Brecon Beacons, and headed back towards the car. Even so, it was a long slog along rough and very icy ground. We made the car after about 6hrs on the go. Both of us were tired. Rufus flopped out on the back seat straight away and didn’t move for the whole journey home.

We checked online for the possible reason why Rufus wasn’t wagging his tail and found that it was due to him having had a lot of exercise over a short period of time. He slept on my lap for most of the evening and there was plenty of snoring and dreaming going on.

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